Instead of chasing stressful deadlines, I am choosing to focus on doing my best. Not pushing myself is sometimes the most self-loving thing I can do.

As a kid, my parents pushed me to excel in school. Most evenings and weekends, while the other kids played outside, I sat at my little brown desk reading textbooks a few grade levels ahead. When I got to class, I always excelled because I’d already learned the material.

This skill set was useful in the academic work, but in the real world, it’s done me more harm than good. When I’ve found myself struggling, my automatic response has too often been, “Try harder, go faster, do more.”

When I first buckled down to write The Art of Talking to Yourself, I was living in Costa Rica. I had the epiphany that I didn’t need pushing, not even from myself. I allowed myself to take breaks. I wrote about that experience in this post: “Embracing Pain in My Creative Process.”

Since then, I’ve still struggled to take breaks, but I’m learning. Each time that I do this, I become better at doing it. Each time I return with fresh eyes and fresh inspiration, I learn the importance of leaving and returning.

Lately, I’ve been learning the same lesson in a different form. I’ve realized that I set myself arbitrary deadlines and then drive myself crazy trying to meet them.

I set December 1st, 2016 as the release date for The Art of Talking to Yourself. Somewhere around mid-October, I realized that this wasn’t going to be possible. But even after I realized this, I kept trying, kept going, kept pushing!

You know when I finally stopped trying to get the book done on December 1st? About December 17th. This makes no sense, of course. But here I am, your nonsensical, imperfect human friend.

For about two weeks, I was trying to meet a deadline that was in the past! But I realized that this pattern isn’t that strange or that uncommon. How many of us plan to have something accomplished by a certain age, and when we don’t, we keep chasing that bygone deadline?

So, the solution, I thought, was to set another deadline—a better one. If you’ve read the preview of the book, you likely expect it to release on March 1st. For the past few weeks, I’ve been grappling with the fact that this is probably not going to happen. Unless I wear myself thin—again.

So what am I going to do? Am I going to do what I did in October: hide my head in the sand and hope for the best? Or am I going to be kind to myself now? Am I going to take the pressure off myself now?

An important part of self-love is hearing the whispers before they become screams. And even though I know this, I still sometimes bat those whispers away like annoying mosquitoes. Because my self-communications are inconvenient. Because what I’m saying to myself isn’t what I want to hear.

So, I’m going to take this opportunity to be kind. This self-pushing-run-myself-into-the-ground thing is something I’ve been slowly working on for years. Now, I have an opportunity to take one small step to heal this pattern. So I am.

I’m pushing the release date tentatively to May 15th. Honestly, I don’t know I’ll be done by then. I can’t control my creative process. For all I know, I could still be done by March 1st! Anything is possible. But, right now, I need to take the pressure off, so that I can do my best rather than my fastest.

I want this book to be helpful, beautiful, and insightful. That’s my goal. And, as a creative person, I can sit down every day to work on it, but beyond that, it’s really out of my control. So why am I trying to control it?

Maybe it’s time to admit it. My name is Vironika, and I’m a recovering control freak.

And isn’t it funny that I’m writing a book about learning to understand ourselves, rather than always fixing, controlling, and judging our experiences. Maybe there’s a reason it’s taking so long. 🙂

This journey can be so mysterious sometimes. Thank you, my friends, for walking with me. Your presence and support makes even the painful times more beautiful.

Self-Love Is More Important Than Meeting a Deadline

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11 More Comments

  • January 21, 2017 at 10:44 pm
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    Interesting process you are goin through, Vironika. Thanks for sharing it.

    I am 73 years old, so for me, things are a bit different. I think of setting deadlines and making plans as a way of centering–of being present. But I know I ultimately cannot control them, and that is not their purpose.

    I have a lot I want to accomplish in my life, but not a lot of time left to do it. But this is not my number one priority.

    For me it’s about being in the present–Be Here Now!
    This is my prime focus.

    Reply
    • January 23, 2017 at 2:55 pm
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      It is definitely an interesting process, Don. Thank you for reading. I am glad that you are focusing on what’s most important to you! 🙂

      Reply
  • January 26, 2017 at 3:43 pm
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    Vironika, I LOVE this! Listen to the whispers before they become screams. So much wisdom here. How do I follow your blog???

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  • January 27, 2017 at 10:07 am
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    “Try harder, go faster, do more.” That’s a mantra I learned growing up as well, and still plagues me, although I’m finally learning to recognize it early, as you say. Because oh, can I chase my own tail when I get into that! And it’s always counterproductive.
    I simply love this, Vatsala: “An important part of self-love is hearing the whispers before they become screams.” Yes. Just yes.

    Reply
  • January 27, 2017 at 10:09 am
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    Sorry, Vironika! I was typing too fast! See–a perfect example of me trying harder and going too fast! Now it’s time for me to sit and breathe 🙂

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    • January 27, 2017 at 2:13 pm
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      Hilarious! I actually stared at the “Vatsala” for a while trying to figure out what it meant. I thought it was Sanskrit for wisdom, or something like that!

      Reply
  • February 1, 2017 at 7:08 pm
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    It is interesting, Vironika how so much self-help literature emphasises goal-setting and achieving deadlines. I’m attracted to this kind of thinking, but only because I have lost confidence in my own path (usually through diverting myself by various distractions). I know I used to beat myself up a lot not so much because I didn’t meet deadlines which I’d set, but because I felt unable to set deadlines and goals in the first place. It’s just not me. Do you think ‘The Art of Talking To Yourself’ might already be out if it wasn’t self-published – i.e., if a publisher had given you a deadline. It occurs to me that you might find yourself waiting until ‘The Art Of…’ is perfect before releasing it. Which means never. At some point I guess we all have to learn that something is ‘good enough’; that we have done our best by a particular time. And what I like about the way you coach, Vironika, is that you so honestly admit to being as flawed as the rest of us are. So not even ‘The Art Of…’ is going to be perfect, I guess. ☺

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    • February 2, 2017 at 2:24 pm
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      I appreciate your perspective, Lei, though I feel you’ve misjudged me here. I am not waiting for the book to be perfect. Firstly, I am working on it each day, so “waiting” is not a word that fits with what is happening. Secondly, I don’t actually believe in perfection as a state. I do, however, believe in the practice of consciously perfecting something, diligently finessing it until I feel that I am ready to set it out into the world. This process is deeply satisfying to me, and I believe that this is the reason that I have struggled with perfectionism in the past: I misdirected this creative finesse in the wrong direction. Instead of crafting my art, I tried to craft my thighs. These, I have learned, are different things with different consequences.

      Moreover, I had many painful (fully avoidable) experiences with my first book that came from rushing, goal-setting, deadline-setting… instead of honouring my creative process. I didn’t walk away from it and come back with fresh eyes multiple times—something I’ve learned is crucial for me.

      If someone had set me a hard deadline by which the book would have to be “good enough,” then of course I’d have to finish by then. But I would not feel that I’d done my best. And that is precisely what happened with the first book. I rushed, and paid the price. This time around, my goal is to reach that moment when I feel I’ve done my best and (regardless of what else I might think of changing) before I publish the book. I reached this with The Love Mindset only last year, and though I have thought of many necessary changes, I’ve left it. I’m at peace with my decision. I know that, at some point, I will feel that same thing with this book. How long this takes is, in some ways, not up to me. Creativity is full of mystery. My job is to explore each day, but the timeline is not something that I can control. I will leave that up to the process itself.

      Reply

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